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An original take on an old classic

PUBLISHED: 13:40 29 September 2010 | UPDATED: 11:13 14 October 2010

Antonio's: heavenly menu

Antonio's: heavenly menu

TONY GAY at tonephote@aol.com

ONE of the great things about reviewing restaurants in Islington, is that you are constantly being surprised. Whether it's an innovative pancake house in Stroud Green Road, an authentic E

Antonio's is tucked away off Upper Street

ANTONIO'S, Rear of 137 Upper Street, N1, Tel: 020 7226 8994

ONE of the great things about reviewing restaurants in Islington, is that you are constantly being surprised.

Whether it's an innovative pancake house in Stroud Green Road, an authentic Eritrean in Essex Road or a pub specialising in dim sum on the edge of the City, there's always somewhere interesting to go.

An Italian in Upper Street may not at first seem to have the same shock factor, but Antonio's is no ordinary Italian.

The first surprise is its location. Set down an alleyway leading off Upper Street almost opposite St Mary's Church, this is the archetypal hidden gem.

By day the alley leads to a Citroen garage, but by night it becomes home to a cosy restaurant with exposed brick walls, romantic lighting and bottles of fine wine adorning every corner.

It's a lovely setting, and the menu is one of those where you feel like you've died and gone to heaven just reading it.

The owners hail from Calabrese in southern Italy, but you can choose from almost every classic dish from the Italian mainland to Sicily, as well as a few you are unlikely ever to have encountered before.

On the passionate recommendation of chef Andrea Santacaterina, whose enthusiasm for the dishes he serves up is infectious, I went for a starter comprising Italian sausage and rosemary in a pastry parcel.

What arrived at our table was like a million dollar sausage roll, such were the quality of the flavours, although the sheer size of it doesn't leave much room for the main course.

Continuing my policy of sticking rigidly to the advice of the chef, next I went for an oven-baked fillet of swordfish with capers, olives and breaded herbs, which was an absolute delight.

My rather less adventurous dining partner followed a classic bruschetta with a wonderfully rich and garlicy seafood spaghetti with crevettes, prawns, mussels and wild clams.

A beautifully crisp bottle of Falanghina washed it all down, and I'm almost ashamed to admit we finished off by sampling the tiramisu, forest fruit semifreddo and a fantastically named chocolate salami with mascarpone cream, all in the name of work of course.

Maybe when the planned antipasti bar opens on the first floor I will manage another visit without such gluttony, but with such wonderful cooking and so many exciting dishes to be tried, I wouldn't bank on it. - ROB BLEANEY

Mains: from £11

Wines: from £13.50

Children welcome: Yes

Disabled access: No


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